Bendle Store

Samples from store account records 1858 - 1859

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Operating a store at Bidwell provided an opportunity to make a large profit but also required a willingness to take significant risks. It required the investment of a large amount of capital or obtaining personal credit to acquire supplies from wholesalers located in the San Francisco and Marysville. The sale of goods at Bidwell was often done on credit with the further delay of the payment, and the risk of never reciving cash for the merchendise! Banks, as a seperate business, did not exist during the early years of the gold rush. Therefore, merchants like John Bende, often provided many of the money lending services that were associated with banking activities.

The following tables provide examples of individuals involved, services provided, merchandise available and the cost of the items.

A special thanks to the Butte County Historical Society for making copies of the original store journal available to this researcher.

Transporting the Supplies to Bidwell

During the early years of the gold rush from 1848 to 1852 supplies were limited and sold for outrageous prices. For example, in 1848, a common pick would sell for $20 while an iron crow bar might cost $100. By the summer of 1853 the eastern merchants had responded to the demands and had shipped large quantities of materials to San Francisco. The over supply caused the prices of merchandise in San Francisco to decline rapidly bankrupting suppliers that had miscalculated the demand. Supplies for the mountain mining areas were transported by boat up the Sacramento River to Marysville. The seasonal variation in the river flow, shallow depth, and floating debris prevented the development of river traffic up the Feather River to Oroville. Supplies destined for Bidwell were sent to Marysville then reloaded onto pack mules, or freight wagons, for delivery to Bidwell’s Bar. In 1854 basic food items were expensive in the Bidwell area with flour selling for $1.00 a pound, coffee at $4.00 a pound and a dozen eggs cost $12/dozen. By 1858 there was an abundance of needed materials, although prices varied seasonally. Prices remained high due to transportation costs incurred over poor roads especially during winter conditions.

Sample of store journal - September 22, 1858

The store records were maintained in a bound journal of legal sized pages, The readability of the entries depended on the handwriting skills of the clerk that day, and how well the pen was dipped into the ink-jar or the sharpness of the pencil they used! In the example shown above, the numbers on the left; inside the // brackets, indicate the customer number assigned by Bendle. The listing included, from left to right, the individuals account number, and the items purchased. The two columns on the extreme right were titled Draw and Cash. Items charged to the individual’s account were posted in the Draw column. When items were paid for at the time of purchase, or when the individual paid a portion of their outstanding bill, it was noted as By Cash, and was posted in the Cash column. It was common for individuals to receive a cash advance from Bendle at the time they were charging other items to their account. When these cash loans were made, they were posted in the journal as To Cash, and listed in the Draw column of the Store Journal.

Examples of activities indicating the Bendle Store also served the functions of a Bank

Table 2 Acting like Bank.docx

Sample purchases by George Fitzgerald, The Long Ripple Mining Company and E. S. Ruggles at the Bendle Store.

Table 5.Fitgreald Account.docx
Table 4.Long Ripple Mining Company.docx
Ruggles purchases.docx

The folling is a list of the items available at the Bendle store. There were other items listed in various sales entires, that have not been included, because the description or sales prices were not readable.

Items Available at Bendle Store .docx